The Dot-to-Dot Seasons

This is one of my tougher seasons of life. Unable to pinpoint its beginning, I am more interested in its end.

dot to dot blankIn my not-so-patient endurance, I thought of the dot-to-dot activity pages I enjoyed as a child. These pictures are without definition, other than scattered dots and corresponding numbers. The goal is to connect the dots with color or pencil in sequential numerical order. The originating artist has created a completed picture from which the unconnected dotted sheet is made. The one with the blank page must fill in those spaces one link at a time to see what has been hidden from view.

Maybe this season of my life is one of those dot-to-dots. The Artist of my life sees the completed picture, while I see only a series of line segments taking me up and down, back and forth, with no discernable pattern. In fact, I feel I’m covering the same territory repeatedly, with different names and faces involved. So I question the path God has me on, not a problem in itself. When I stubbornly plant my feet with hands on my hips to demand an explanation before going on, I’ve moved into problem territory.

dot to dot gone astrayTo stay with this dot-to-dot illustration, I’ll say I arrived at #17, quite near my starting point. With no idea how much longer this journey will be, but feeling hopeless, I decide I have had enough. When I arrive at #18, rather than looking for the next marker, I just keep going on no path at all. Ah, the freedom of independence! Really? Look at the second picture.

I’d rather go independently into the senseless unknown than follow Daddy’s path – unknown to me, but known fully to Him? That’s independence?! Once I’ve taken those steps, I know I will never make it back on my own. Prone to wander, Lord, I fear it 1 rings so true.

Without the Lord’s patient and continual outpouring of mercy and grace, I will not see the intricate beauty of Christ to be revealed in this season’s picture. But, if I trust Him completely, not only will He restore me to the path, but will bring me to the finish. Each season’s picture will be as beautiful as He already sees it – when complete.

dot to dot completedI want to trust Him. Really. And I want the pain involved in the making of this picture to end now. It can’t be both. Either I focus on the pain of each step or I trust Christ completely. Thank God for His grace in Christ Jesus!

My heart’s true desire is not to lean on my own understanding. Rather, it is to trust the trustworthy One, regardless of pain or discomfort in the process. Only in this do I find true rest as I am reminded:

You know exactly where I am and what I am going through. 2

You will never leave me or forsake me. 3

Your love for me will never fail. 4

You are working all things together for my good. 5

You know my every thought and still love me. 6

You are leading and guiding me in the way everlasting. 7

Jesus Christ – the One You gave for me 8 – is more than enough for me 9, my refuge and fortress 10, my shield and defender 11, my Life and my light, my salvation 12. You, Jesus Christ, are ever-victorious 13! And You live in me and I live in You – forever 14!

With that, I find myself again on the path, unsure of what I face, but completely certain of Christ Jesus.

1 from hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

2 Psalm 139:1-18

3 Hebrews 13:5

4 1 Corinthians 13:8

5 Romans 8:28

6 Psalm 139:1-18

7 Psalm 139:24

8 John 3:16

9 Ephesians 3:20

10 Psalm 91:2

11 Psalm 18:2, Isaiah 51:22

12 Psalm 27:1

13 1 Corinthians 15:54-57

14 Colossians 1:27

The Peace of Faith

From the archives of my journals, this short entry from 1992 paints a word picture of the faithfulness of our God and His Christ – always.

waiting dogsI was caring for the neighbors’ dog and cat this weekend. When I pulled the curtain away from the door to go outside to feed them, they were standing side-by-side staring at the door, waiting for what they knew was coming. . . sometime. I don’t believe they heard me. They only knew it was time to be fed. They weren’t fretting or moaning or doubting that someone would come before it was too late. They were waiting calmly because they knew they would be fed.

How like that I can be, if I will. I can ask in faith, believing in the Source of my faith, Jesus Christ. Then I can calmly expect the answer to come – waiting patiently and watching for it.

Yet there was more to learn from these brief moments . . .

As I opened the door, the dog and cat didn’t look past me as they sought their expected provider. Neither did they turn and walk away as if to say, “We won’t eat this food we want and need, because you are not the one we’re used to.” No. They eagerly received the food without hesitation, even though I was not their expected method of delivery. Their owners, after all, had made arrangements for them in advance of the need.

What a simple and clear picture of life in Christ! Because of Jesus Christ and all He has done, I can simply believe, waiting expectantly in His peace. If the answer arrives contrary to my preconceived expectations, I can still receive it in His peace, knowing my Daddy has made all the arrangements in advance of my need, according to His great plan!

Baaaaa!

Ah, those shower revelations!  Aren’t they wonderful?  You know, when you mindlessly go through the routine of a shower, all the while talking with Jesus.  And then He inserts one word or one thought that totally changes the course of the conversation – and your life.

Though it’s only been a few days, I can’t even remember, now, what question I wrestled with, what I tried so hard to understand . . . this time.  What I do remember is the sudden heart understanding that I don’t need to try so hard to understand everything, followed immediately by:

Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV  5 Trust in the Lord  with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

Despite repeating these verses to myself many times over many years, somehow, I really haven’t “gotten it,” the absolute bottom line truth that the Lord knows it all, and I don’t have to.  Period.  If I need to understand something, He will show me at the right time, but I won’t have to work my brain so hard to figure it out.  He will reveal it through His Word by His Spirit in such a way that it makes perfect sense and I’ll wonder why I didn’t “get it” before.  Until that time, I might as well simply trust that He knows and understands – beyond what I ever can with my finite mind.  This is resting in Him.  This is the only place to find His peace.

photo by Martin Baldwin, http://www.martincreative.co.uk

As if to bring the point home even more clearly, Daddy then reminded me of natural sheep and the shepherd.1  Sheep don’t lose sleep trying to figure out what their shepherd is doing.  They simply follow him, leaving the thinking and planning to him, and he makes all the decisions – all for their good, their benefit, their protection, their provision, their lives!  There is a reason Jesus calls us sheep; likewise, that He refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd — that we might so live.

Psalm 23  KJV  1 The Lord  is my shepherd; I shall not want.  2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.  3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.  5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord  for ever.

 

1 I know not all sheep are compliant and trusting. That is, however, the absolute best way for them to live, just like us with our Good Shepherd.

 

Do I Trust You?

There is an old Twila Paris song that comes back to mind at key points in life – you know, those times when you seem to be in a major time of shaking concerning everything that you’ve known or of which you’ve been a part.  It’s times when you can’t see what’s ahead, and it appears there is nothing underneath your feet anymore, for that matter, when you are trying desperately to hold onto the things that seem to be slipping from your grasp.  It’s in times like those I begin to hear the words of Twila’s song, Do I Trust You, Lord?

Sometimes my little heart can’t understand
What’s in Your will, what’s in Your plan.
So many times I’m tempted to ask You why,
But I can never forget it for long.
Lord, what You do could not be wrong.
So I believe You, even when I must cry.
Do I trust You, Lord?
Does the river flow?
Do I trust You, Lord?
Does the north wind blow?
You can see my heart,
You can read my mind,
And You’ve got to know
I would rather die
Than to lose my faith
In the One I love.
Do I trust You, Lord?
Do I trust You?

For Twila to have written this song, I believe she must have been experiencing a time of shaking in which she was forced to consider these very questions – and wait for the answer – before she could move on.  As she continues to probe more deeply into her heart, the foundational question becomes so clear, as it must to each of us.

I know the answers, I’ve given them all.
But suddenly now, I feel so small.
Shaken down to the cavity in my soul.
I know the doctrine and theology,
But right now they don’t mean much to me.
This time there’s only one thing I’ve got to know.

Do I trust You, Lord?
Does the robin sing?
Do I trust You, Lord?
Does it rain in spring?
You can see my heart,
You can read my mind,
And You’ve got to know
I would rather die
Than to lose my faith
In the One I love.
Do I trust You, Lord?
Do I trust You?

At this point, the music and the lyrics build in intensity, as the spirit man is rising up within her to make the declaration setting her on course once again, able to press on no matter the shaking, the losing of what has been familiar and comfortable, or the great things in which she has put her trust.

I will trust You, Lord, when I don’t know why.
I will trust You, Lord, till the day I die.
I will trust You, Lord, when I’m blind with pain!
You were God before, and You’ll never change.
I will trust You.
I will trust You.
I will trust You, Lord.
I will trust You.

There have been times in my own life when I couldn’t honestly sing the final refrain, when I really wasn’t sure.  It was in those times Holy Spirit ministered His comfort and assurance, along with the peace of Jesus Christ, until I could begin – with only whispers – to sing those last words. Though they were barely audible when I began, as I continued, the light of His Truth once again overcame the darkness that had tried to overcome me.

John 1:5 AMP And the Light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it [put it out or absorbed it or appropriated it, and is unreceptive to it].

Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV  5 Trust in the Lord  with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Even after the breakthrough I continued to face what, to me, were overwhelming circumstances and situations.  But God!  The Greater One reminded me that I can trust Him absolutely and completely, even when I don’t understand, and that He will guide my paths (meaning, He will not leave me alone to figure it out).  Surely, there is no place of more security and comfort than the place of trusting my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Glory to His name!

1 John 4:4 NIV  You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.